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The Romantic Self

If the interiority of the enlightenment primarily concerns practical interests, sex, the body more generally, and making one's way in the world, how far does the turn to romanticism bring a new series of dimensions to reflection on the self?

There are a range of romantic sources - including Leopardi, Reiser, Hazlitt, and Stendhal - to help us explore the ways in which this generation came to see itself as uniquely disturbed and dislocated in the world, and as needing some form of quasi-philosophical rapproachment to it that could give their lives meaning and substance.

It is also worth considering Destutt de Tracy's approach to love - as a 'ideologist' with a strong sociological bent, he completed a section of his proposed work on Ideology on 'Love', but never finished the full text. In that section he set out his concern:

'I would like us all to consider what can best bring people to truly will what is demanded of them in marriage without turning this concern into yet another way of making marriage tremble and instead, perhaps, thereby even preserve the institution from further harm. There are three principal means of accomplishing this. The first is to acknowledge an extreme premarital liberty of young men and women alike. The second is to offer legal resources and recourses
to those who have recklessly engaged themselves in marriage, and the third would be an adoption of every
appropriate measure possible to make entering into projects of marital commitment as little potentially motivated
by intentions and interests utterly foreign to love and its furtherance alone as is possible.' Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy (Trans. J. Christian Guerrero, 2016), Elements of Ideology, Vol. 5: On Morals, CHAPTER II, On Love. (see:

Core Reading

For the class, I want you to focus on two texts: Hazlitt's Liber Amoris ( and some short selections from Stendhal's Love

If you have time, you may also want to take a look at:

Leopardi - Zibaldone: 66-82; 101-9; 257-72 (PQ4709.E5 Z53)

Karl Philipp Moritz - Anton Reiser - (PT 2435.M3)

Stendhal - Memoirs of an Egotist (PQ2435.A3)

Suggested Secondary Reading

G.Izenberg, Impossible Individuality: romanticism, revolution and the origins of modern selfhood 1787-1802 (1992) (ebook)

N.Riasanovsky The Emergence of Romanticism (1992)

F L Baumer, Modern European Thought (1977), Part IV, “The Romantic World”

Class Questions:

How would you characterise 'romanticism'?

In what ways does the text/do the texts you have read fit that definition?

Why is love such a central feature of these works?

What do these texts do in the way of understanding the position of women in relation to the men who woo them?

What is Hazlitt doing in Liber Amoris!?

How should we understand Stendhal's project in Love ?